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Dead Space 3: In Space, One Can Hear You Scream

Company: EA Games

EA's Dead Space series looks like it's on course to claim its place as this generation's best action/horror franchise. It burst onto the scene with a remarkably confident first effort, then skillfully evaded the dreaded sophomore slump in early 2011. Dead Space 3 is almost here, and while it seems to be a subtly different kind of beast, it's still looking like a must-have.

The most obvious change in store for Dead Space fans is the addition of a new player character, EarthGov Sergeant John Carver. Isaac Clarke is still the de facto hero of the Dead Space series, but the addition of cooperative play seems to necessitate his existence. Personally, I would have loved to see Dead Space 2's one-eyed CEC Pilot (and possibly the most badass British lady since Margaret Thatcher) Ellie Langford in the co-op role, but maybe Carver will prove to be an interesting addition.

Dead Space 3's narrative kicks off two months after Dead Space 2's explosive finale. Titan Station is no more, and the only survivors of the Sprawl's multiple reactor meltdown are Isaac and Ellie. In a series of events, the two meet up with Sgt. John Carver of EarthGov and discover the remains of a planetcracker ship on the icy world of Tau Volantis. Turns out, the miners aboard the derelict spacecraft found the source of the Markers, the alien artifacts responsible for causing a murderous type of psychosis in the living and horrific transformations in the dead. It becomes their goal to find the source and destroy it.

Upon entry into the atmosphere of Tau Volantis, our heroes' ship breaks up and crashes into the tundra, separating Clarke and Carver from Ellie. Survival is your primary objective for the demo, and it begins with a trek through a near zero-visibility snowstorm in an attempt to find shelter. Of course, if Tau Volantis houses the source of all the Markers, there's bound to be necromorphs out and about.

Combat has always been one of Dead Space's finer points. There's nothing broken, and nothing to fix. However, a few additions help deepen the combat system. Like in previous games, enemy designs force you to think outside the box. A standard necromorph can now be split in half at the abdomen, but the pelvic region will sprout razor tentacles similar to those of lurkers. Oh, and its mobility will naturally increase.

Like in Dead Space 2, necromorphs aren't Isaac's only enemies. A group of unitologists has also landed on Tau Volantis, presumably with the goal of bringing about Convergence, the ultimate end to which the despicable means of Unitology are employed. Unlike in Dead Space 2, however, Isaac is not given the option to simply sic the necromorph herd on them. He's going to have to fight back. This means we're in for some cover-based shooting. Using Dead Space 3's mining weaponry on regular human beings is a strange but fun experience, and the addition of a cover system makes this more viable.

Speaking of weaponry, one mechanic has been fleshed out quite a bit. In Dead Space and Dead Space 2, the workbench was Isaac's personal upgrade station. Power nodes were welded to certain spots, and the functionality of his weapons was improved. Now, Isaac's role as an engineer comes into clearer focus as he actually has the opportunity to build weapons. As his adventure progresses, he can scavenge for junk and spare parts. At the workbench, he can fit all of these parts together to build improved versions of classic weapons or even brand new implements of destruction. In my time with the game, I built a plasma cutter with a cutting width that easily doubled that of the original one. I'm curious to see where Visceral takes this nuance.

Dead Space 3 looks to be an iterative improvement over its predecessors, and that's perfectly fine. This has easily been one of the most consistently excellent new IPs of this gaming generation. Even though I'm a diehard fan of the series, I can still keep my personal biases in check when I say that areas for improvement seem to be amazingly scarce. It's probably very safe to say that this latest release is looking like a must-own for action junkies and horror geeks alike. Dead Space 3 infects North American shelves on February 5th. Go secure your reservations and check back for the full review soon.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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